This Watsoversary coincides with the anniversary of exactly one month in Zambia. It makes it easy to measure my progress here, from my stressful and scrambling Lusaka arrival, to the majesty of the largest waterfall in the world. There were dusty Eastern Province hills followed by a return to the colorful but now manageable capital city. The last month has been filled with names and stories and campfires and group dinners. I measure the time that has passed every morning when I see how many malaria pills are left in the container.
This Watsoversary is the 2/3 mark of my year outside the United States. Time has suddenly started moving fast. The Future with a capital F has been weighing on my mind more. Going home feels less like a distant dream and more like something that will one day be a reality. At times the prospect makes me overjoyed and at other times it makes me miserable.
I’m starting to feel a bit of pressure as time goes on; all of a sudden I feel like I can’t make it up as I go along but have to ask myself what this year has amounted to, and more specifically, what these stories and writing amount to. On a fundamental level, I know that this year has amounted to quite a bit. I see that in the way I think, the way I treat myself, the way I relate to others. But that is all quite hard to explain. The tangible benefits of this year seem to slip through my grasp when people ask me what I plan to do next and how this will relate to it.
I think it’s going to be a challenge over the next four months not to think too much ahead; to try and forget that when I get back to the U.S. I have no idea what city I’ll be living in or what kind of job I’ll have (or what kind of job I even want to have), and that this year of freedom and exploration was a temporary thing. Applying for office jobs in east coast cities is now beginning to scare me more than the idea of moving to a capital city in southern Africa without knowing anyone.
But there’s a lot to come before then, and a lot that I don’t want to be overshadowed by thinking too much about what things will be like when I come back home. For now there’s the moment. There’s the fact that sun is streaming through my window and I’m lying in bed and posting this at an insanely early hour because I’m about to get on a bus to go to Kafue National Park for a safari. I don’t even really know what going on a safari entails. I was skyping with my friend Nathan the other night, and before we hung up, I told him to have a nice night and he told me to have a nice safari. And then we started hysterically laughing and couldn’t even talk more. Because what kind of people have we turned into that we can say to each other, “have a nice safari.” It’s ridiculous, really. It’s ridiculous that I’m here, it’s ridiculous that I’m doing this. Sometimes, I take a moment and step back and just start laughing, because I’m HERE. And I can’t quite believe it, even eight months later. Here’s to another four months of being here--wherever here is.
In the past month I have:
-Learned the correct protocol for eating nshima.
-Witnessed the beauty of Victoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the world.
-Learned to identify giraffe droppings.
-Seen a herd of zebras outside an apartment building.
-Took a microlight flight. Panicked. Flew. Was struck with awe.
-Flown over Zimbabwe.
-Seen more rainbows than I’ve seen in the twenty-three years leading up to it (the end of rainy season combined with intense sun will do that for you).
-Swam in the Zambezi River.
-Drunk high tea on Livingstone Island
-Waited in line to see the 2012 African Cup of Nations
-Stepped in hippo tracks.
-Watched wildebeests and wild boars (animals that I had previously thought were fictional).
-Bought a soccer jersey to celebrate the victory of Zambia’s Chipolopolo boys.
-Figured out how to navigate the Lusaka minibus system.
-Learned a few phrases in Nyanja.
-Drank Zambian grown coffee.
-Incorporated the South African word “braii” into my vocabulary and my belly.
-Darkened my Chaco sandal tan lines to a ridiculous degree.
-Bought three colorful chitenjes and wandered my way around markets.
-Visited Zambia’s Eastern Province.
-Ridden in the back of a pickup truck. Fallen in love with traveling this way.
-Celebrated an Irish St. Patrick’s Day, Zambian style.
-Experienced Lusaka nightlife, for better or worse.
-Begun responding to the name Mzungu.
-Eaten avocados and papayas off a tree in the yard.
-Learned the meanings and stories behind many Zambian names.
-Worked with (and paid) my first research assistant of the year.
-Taught people of eight different nationalities how to make s’mores.
-Gotten through several days without water and/or power and learned to cope.
-Listened to this beautiful thing on repeat:
2/3 down, 1/3 to go.